It is hardly deniable that the Earth’s climate is warming at an alarming rate, and it has prompted most countries in the developed world to look to renewable energy as a means of staunching greenhouse gas emissions as well as reducing their dependency on fossil fuels. Even America, the backward nation addicted to and lusting for more fossil fuel use, has crept ever so slowly to catch up to the rest of the world’s use of renewable energy with a burgeoning movement toward wind and solar power that creates jobs, saves consumers’ money, and reduces pollutants. In 2007, North Carolina was the first state in the Southeastern U.S. to adopt renewable energy standards to encourage electrical utility providers to expand their use of renewable sources of energy, and last week, they became the first state to repeal their renewable energy standards at the direction of the Koch brothers and their legislative arm, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
North Carolina utilities were on pace to supply 12.5% of the state’s electricity needs with renewable energy that has created thousands of jobs, generated billions in revenue, and reduced pollution all while saving ratepayers money. However, led by the Kochs, Grover Norquist, the Heartland Institute, and ALEC, Republicans voted to repeal the state’s renewable energy standards (RES) using an ALEC template that is gaining traction in several states under Koch brothers and Grover Norquist’s control Norquist and the Kochs have been heavily funding and pushing ALEC’s “template legislation” to put an end to renewable energy to hasten climate change’s effect, kill jobs, and restrict states from reaping the revenue generated by renewable energy.
The ALEC bill, HB298, dubbed the “Affordable and Reliable Energy Act” was introduced by ALEC member Rep. Mike Hager and repeals the renewable energy standard that barely made it out of committee when two sane Republicans voted against it. One Republican from Charlotte, Ruth Samuelson, said the RES had helped develop a renewable alternative energy industry that benefitted rural communities and created 1,100 clean energy companies that contributed $3.7 billion in annual revenue, created over 21,000 jobs, and lowered residential energy bills by $173 million. In fact, North Carolina’s RES lifted the state to fifth place in the nation for solar power development and was closing in on fourth place this year leading the CEO of FLS energy to claim “It’s an extraordinary success story that there’s an industry that hardly existed several years ago,” but the Koch brothers mean to destroy the industry with a “filled-in” template courtesy of ALEC.
The Koch brothers, their cohort ALEC, and the conservative belief tank the Heartland Institute lobbied heavily to dismantle the RES through hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in donations and assistance from Art Pope’s John Locke Foundation. Pope is a conservative donor and former national director of the Koch brothers’ other belief tank, Americans for Prosperity, and his John Locke Foundation assisted pushing ALEC’s legislation with a phony report that the RES increased energy costs to consumers and killed thousands of jobs.
Grover Norquist joined forces with the Kochs and wrote an op-ed attacking renewable energy and, of course, cited the Locke Foundation phony report as why it was crucial to kill renewable energy standards. Norquist attempted to convince Kansas legislators to repeal their RES or at least weaken them with ALEC’s model legislation, but the Republican-led House and Senate rejected the bills after thousands of residents signed petitions and the Kansas Farm Bureau wrote an op-ed supporting the state standards. The opinion piece noted that Kansas was one of the nation’s leaders in renewable energy, and boasted the state was second in the nation for wind-energy potential that means more jobs, increased disposable income for consumers and businesses, as well as increasing development in Kansas. He also encouraged legislators to strengthen the RES because it helped the “prosperity of Kansas’ farm and ranch families, provides jobs, attracts new businesses, and invests in infrastructure for the state.”
The president and CEO of the American Council or Renewable Energy responded to Norquist’s lies and asked a prescient rhetorical question; “So as a nationwide initiative funded by opponents of renewable energy targets state Renewable Portfolio Standards, Americans should be asking themselves, with all the benefits that came with doubling our renewable energy capacity from 43.5 gigawatts to 85.7GW from 2008 to 2012, “Do we want more renewable energy or less?” The thousands who signed petitions to the legislature obviously answered that yes, they wanted more renewable energy, cleaner air, more jobs, and business investments to fund infrastructure improvement. Sadly, North Carolina Republicans did not want the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy and voted to repeal the RES and kill jobs, increase energy costs, and add pollutants to the environment.
It is apparent why the Koch brothers invested in ALEC’s model legislation because denying global climate change is one of their major goals, and of course they reap the benefits of selling more oil to generate electricity. In fact, if the Kochs ever devised a way to charge Americans for accessing the Sun and wind, this nation would be awash in renewable energy. ALEC is at Koch’s beck and call to grind out templates for Republicans to fill in to kill renewable energy standards in 28 states, as well as keep the money flowing into their coffers from the Kochs. Grover Norquist joined the campaign because starving state governments of revenue takes him one step closer to achieving his goal of “drowning government in a bathtub,” and he succeeded in North Carolina that stands to lose $3.7 billion in annual revenue as well as revenue from residents working in the renewable energy industry. The fact that Norquist assisted Republicans in killing thousands of jobs and increase the burden on energy consumers with higher electricity costs is a value-added benefit and reinforces his disregard for Americans over the past three decades.
Despite America being a leader in technological development, the nation is lagging behind nearly every developed country in the world in harnessing renewable energy, including one the biggest polluters on the planet, China. President Obama has attempted to increase funding in the form of tax credits and loans to expand this nation’s renewable energy, but Republicans have been there every step of the way blocking his efforts. America has an expansive land area to take advantage of the Sun and wind to generate electricity, but the Koch brothers will not allow any further development in the industry. Worse, with ALEC supplying Republicans Koch legislation to end renewable energy standards, Americans will lose jobs, clean air, inexpensive electricity, and increased business investments, and if there is one thing Republicans love more than oil industry campaign donations, it is imposing more hardship on the American people.